Blog Entry, 10.30.17 •
Speaking Rock Entertainment Center - El Paso, TX|
Any time we take the show on the road there is a nervous excitement mixed with an uncertain apprehension. After two flights on Friday we were in the great state of Texas by 3:30 that afternoon, looking to settle in before we got down to business the next day.
We woke up Saturday to beautiful blue skies while we waited to be taken to the venue for sound check. The interesting thing about this show is that we were unable to travel with our usual stage props and most of the items that we feel the most comfortable with. We arranged with the venue to have as much of a "KISS" vibe on stage as possible so that we could remain true to our tribute. Upon arriving we found everything ready to go. We needed to simply apply a few of our own touches and we were off and running. The crew at "The Rock" were amazing. Vik and his staff made us feel extremely welcome and they are true professionals. So we ran through "Heavens On Fire" and "Detroit Rock City" to fine tune the gear and then settled in for a long day of waiting to hit the stage.
We had every comfort that you could hope to have when hired to perform out of town. Our dressing room was spacious and we wanted for nothing. By 7:00 PM we began to prep for our make up ritual and the opening band had arrived to set up for their portion of the show. They were a local band that not only played hard but were a great bunch of guys. A big shout out to Pete, Charlie and Rick for spending some time chatting and sharing some laughs too.
We took to the stage just before 10:00 PM and there was a really nice crowd waiting. I love playing in places that we've never been to before. It makes you raise your game and also shows you what you're made of, at least that's how I look at it. I told the crowd that they had "created a rock 'n roll miracle" by coming out to the show and as we moved through our set their responses became more and more enthusiastic. This was a chance for us to prove to a totally new audience that we are capable of taking our KISS tribute to venues and make that connection with the audience that you dream of. The unique part about this show was that we were unable to use the normal gimmicks and tricks such as the smoking guitar and the fire-breathing. So in essence the music had to do the talking. I can't say enough about the people of El Paso and how they rocked with us during the show. It was very gratifying to know that even without all of the pomp and circumstance that we were able to just play and make a connection with a whole new audience.
After the show we did our usual meet 'n greet with the fans that wanted to stop by. The appreciation that they showed us was unbelievable and their sincerity was as genuine. We didn't really sell the amount of merchandise that we had hoped to but we more than made up for it with the compliments and love in my opinion. It's much more satisfying to me that we were able to touch people with our tribute that have never seen us before than it is to sell a t-shirt.
In the end as I finish this blog I cannot wait to go back. I'm sure the next time that visit El Paso that the MR.SPEED Army is going to be in full force at the show. Thank you to everyone that came out and celebrated our passion for KISS with us...the spirit of classic KISS is very much alive and well at "The Rock".
Blog Entry, 10.21.17 •
House Of Blues/Cleveland|
I suppose if we have to start winding our year down what better way to do it than at the House Of Blues. It's the only place in town where we truly feel like a rock band from the time we show up until the time we leave. The crew from the venue is professional and helpful and we couldn't ask for more in helping us to get our job done. Don't get me wrong, that's not say that everything went off without a hitch because it didn't. For instance when we were told by one crew member that plugging certain devices into this outlet was ok only to be told by another that it was not. The only major glitch from our standpoint was when the distortion pedal that I personally use for my guitar decided to shit the bed just before sound check. This may not seem like a big deal but try to imagine needing glasses and not having them available. Or ice skating but with roller blades and not sharp skate blades, you get the point.
So we had dinner and a lot of laughs before we took a walk outside to say "hello" to those already in line. This has become a traditional thing with us and a way for us to say "thanks" to a few fans in person out of character. We arranged to have a Cheap Trick Tribute called "Cheap Tricks" open our show. A high school friend and his wife were seeing us for the very first time. This was a big deal for me as Bob was a roadie in my very first high school band some 37 years ago. Its cool when the circle becomes complete. We prepared our make up while they did their best to warm up the crowd from 8:00-9:00 PM. We were ready to go by 9:30 and we hit the stage with a well oiled sucker punch. Our set list included a few more songs from the Love Gun tour of '77. Songs like "I Want You" and "Ladies Room". We wanted to pay homage to the fact that in 1977 KISS took Cheap Trick on tour with them and this show was to mirror that event. Or course we had some of the usual suspects in our set as well like "Lick It Up" and "God Of Thunder".
I'm actually sitting here watching Q's drum solo that is now on our FB page. He plays a technically proficient and entertaining solo each and every time. In the past I've been bored out of my mind with our drum solos but this year has been a complete 360*. He combines subtle elements of both of Peter's classic live drum solos while injecting his own thunderous flair. Joe's guitar solo tried to make up for some lost time by literally catching fire. Not only did the pick up smoke but so did the guitar itself. There was a strong smell of wood burning as we strolled back on stage. Jim conjured up a few extra demons himself while oozing blood from his mouth, down along his chin which ultimately splattered at his feet during his intro to "God Of Thunder". By this point in the show the crowd was really on our side, intoxicated both literally and figuratively with our efforts and tribute to KISS.
The show closed with an epic confetti storm where no one on the floor was safe. Even Joe ended up with a tissue hor hors d'oeuvres by the time it was all over. Our meet 'n greet was a unorchestrated, chaotic success. We met five guys in town on business from Mexico that were thrilled with our show. We wrapped things up by 1:00 AM and another page had turned in our story. On to El Paso next weekend and the chance to do it all over again...
Blog Entry, 10.08.17 •
The Outpost - Kent, Ohio|
To say that we were a bit apprehensive heading to Kent, Ohio yesterday afternoon would be an understatement. We've become a bit accustomed to not working in venues that remind us of 20 years ago when we were really trying to find our way. To amplify our apprehension as soon as I arrived I received a phone call from the agent asking "is there any chance you have a sound engineer with you"? We didn't have a sound crew for the evening's performance.
Thankfully it was only 1:30 PM and there was plenty of time to try and find one. So since we had never been to this venue we entered the building right around 2:00 PM to assess the surroundings and gauge how we would set up our show. We were also working with an opening act which was a tribute to Black Sabbath/Ozzy Osbourne called Crazy Train. Leaving just enough room for them to set up we maximized our props, completed the sound check and waited our turn to cut loose.
Jim retreated to the comfort of his hotel room just down the road and Joe, Q and I set up in the small room just outside the main floor to get into character. By 9:30 PM we were all together while Crazy Train put the final touches on a meaty set of Sabbath/Ozzy tracks. The room was hot, the fans were ready and we dusted off a month of waiting with an explosive redition of "Detroit Rock City". As I mentioned we had never been to this venue in our 23 year history so we had something to prove to those that had never seen us before. Familiar faces were mixed next to ones that were brand new. A couple drove 7 hours from Virginia just to see our show...that's pretty powerful if you ask me. They had seen 3 other KISS tributes before us and I was told that we were "by far the best they had ever seen". I might make it seem that performing in clubs like this is beneath us but to be honest these are the kinds of places that show you what you're truly made of. Even with the PA not being entirely what we had hoped for we gave it everything we had. We were sweating to beat the band and the usual show antics were in glorious effect...the smoke, the fire, the blood and the drums. Everything fell together and we mixed the classic with rare and left them breathless in the end.
Time will tell if we return to the Outpost. The club lost money on the show and that doesn't sit well with those of us paying the bills. But in the end the fans were happy. The band was happy and the legend of KISS is still very much alive with that little 'ol KISS band that refuses to go away.
Blog Entry, 09.09.17 •
Club Velvet - Hard Rock Rocksino, Northfield, OH|
We knew going in to our show at Club Velvet that the show was SOLD OUT. Where the apprehension came from was just exactly how were we going to set up our show. The venue is on the smaller side compared to quite a few of the venues that we've been in recently. So we literally threw up our gear all around the stage and assessed the area that would be our home later in the day. What I found to be funny about working with this venue was the amount of paperwork that we needed just to execute the normal stage effects that we've become accustomed to. Literally! If we wanted to hang some black fabric behind our lighted KISS sign we heard "Can we see your paperwork for that". Wait, what? No fire-breathing...well, we kind of expected that. What about the smoking guitar? "We're going to need to put our sprinkler systems into safety mode for that". How about the confetti canons? We heard "do you know how much of that is going to get caught up in our ceiling that we're going to have to then get out"? What about our merchandise. "We're going to need to move that entire set up from where it is to the other side of the room". Wait, what? They really put you through the ringer to play here. So we tackled the task, finished our sound check and took on the make-up.
Shortly after 6:00 PM we got together in the dressing room just off of stage right and got artistic. By 7:30 most of us were ready to go and the room was slowly filling up. Having never played in this venue before we really didn't know what to expect. As with many of our crowds when the show begins there are many faces that really don't quite know what to make of us, even though they made an adult decision to come and see us. But as is usually the case by the time we get halfway through the show they come to grips with their decision and are really happy that they were there.
A show highlight was Q's drum solo in "God Of Thunder" which has become one of the best moments in our show. We really felt that the crowd really came to life last night once he powered his way through portions of his "ALIVE" and "ALIVE II" combined solo, finishing with a flurry of cymbal crashes that would've made Animal proud. As the show came to a close with "Wouldn't You Like To Know Me," "Ladies Room" and "All American Man" paving the way for "Deuce" and "Rock And Roll All Nite" we had conquered Club Velvet. All of our efforts paid off and the crowd was wanting an encore. Mission accomplished...again.
Blog Entry, 09.03.17 •
Rally In The Alley - Medina, Ohio|
It's always bittersweet for us to unload the show each Labor Day weekend at this event because it signals the end of summer. It's hard to believe that the past 3 months have gone by so quickly but we sure have made the most of it. It wasn't a typical late summer afternoon in Medina and we knew as the sun began to fall from the sky that the evening would get just a bit cooler than most of us would like. Time to turn up the heat.
We had everything ready to go by 4:30 PM and once our sound check was completed we grabbed a meal together inside. Around the table sat friends from as far away as Boston, MA and Cadillac, MI. Stories were flying, laughter was ringing out and friendships were being strengthened. Soon it was time to prepare for the show. A local band called The Permanents were our opener this year. These are 3 young guys from Medina that deserved a shot at this event and we were all too happy to afford it to them. By 8:30 PM we were on our way to the stage. We stopped for a few moments to record a video for an upcoming performance and also to capture some band images at the base of a stairwell not far from the stage.
An enormous crowd was waiting, many with painted faces and KISS t-shirts beneath unzipped hoodies. There was no holding back once we hit the stage. We rolled through our first set like a tidal wave over a beach. Included in this first set was "Heavens On Fire" which we haven't performed properly in a few years. After a short break we took to the stage for the second half of the show, the crowd was still beyond capacity and clamoring for all that we could give them. Rare gems like "Rip It Out", "Wouldn't You Like To Know Me" paved the way for classics like "God Of Thunder" and the resurrected "Ladies Room". The grains of sand would ultimately gain a stranglehold on our set and with the threat of having the local police shut us down to overextending our stay so we shortened "Rock And Roll All Nite" just a bit to keep everyone happy.
Summer may have come and gone more swiftly than we would like it to have but one thing stays the same. There is a band called MR.SPEED that is hungry for a big bite out of the last few days of summer and Rally in the Alley will expect nothing less than our best and we'll give them just that...you wanted it, you got it. Time flys when you're having fun and we're having a ball.
Blog Entry, 08.13.17 •
Erie County Fair - Hamburg, NY|
Another week races by and finds us all together again. This time at the historic Erie County Fair in Hamburg, NY outside of Buffalo. This is a 2-week long celebration that we are certainly now proud to be a part of. A 3-hour drive from Cleveland to the fairgrounds on Friday afternoon had us pulling up to a mammoth stage. It was set beneath the shadow of a grandstand separated by a dirt horse race track. Load in and set up went fairly well only to be threatened by area storms that were swirling about the grounds. Once our sound check was complete we all took time to enjoy a bit of the festivities...Jim and I walking a part of one of the two midways. Right around 6:00 PM the sky darkened and rain began to fall. In just over an hour the rain has stopped and the sky cleared, the show would go on as if there was ever any doubt.
Our backstage area was comfortably set just steps away from the stage. Complete with catering and air conditioning we were very comfortable as we created our on stage characters. The mood was light and everyone was ready to go by 8:30 PM. A crowd of near 1000 fans packed the seats and portions of the grandstand. We've been to the Buffalo area quite a few times in recent memory but this stage was elevating those experiences. We had prepared a 120-minute show but had it reduced to 90-minutes just prior to the start. As a result we cut out a few tracks but rolled over the usual suspects that the fans expect. This crowd however was clamoring for quite a few "deep cuts" as they shouted out "Love Her All I Can" and "New York Groove", "Baby Driver" and "Black Diamond". Jim fought off the light winds during "God Of Thunder" while spewing trails of thick blood down his chin, while Joe bounced from left to right squinting to keep the smoke from his eyes. Quinton machine-gunned his was through another "ALIVE-esque" solo leading us the final four tracks of the set.
As the show drew to a close we grabbed the fans by the throat and in unison closed things out with "Rock And Roll All Nite". The confetti blew skyward and littered the first few rows with beautiful fall-like symmetry. As the meet 'n greet concluded the local police ushered the remaining fans away that couldn't seem to get enough. The curfew had come and gone and it was time to go home. The show was loaded again into the trailers and the Erie County Fair was now a part of our past.
Thank you western New York, you once again proved that rock 'n roll is alive and well and that KISS is a big part of it.
Blog Entry, 07.30.17 •
To say that good things come to those who wait would really be an understatement. That's what we did for the past 10 years leading up to our first trip into Penn's Peak. Once we arrived we knew that the wait had paid off. This is without a doubt one of the Top 5 places we have ever played, including an outstanding staff, accommodations and amenities. It's a daunting task to go into a venue that has more than seen its share of high caliber acts that have sold millions of albums and feel as though we might not belong here...but we do.
We arrived at Penn's Peak at 1:30 PM with a show time of 8:00 PM only a few hours away. We immediately got to work unloading and setting up, working with Chris, Rich and the rest of the amazing crew/staff there as everything fell into place very smoothly. We haven't had a sound check run as efficiently as this one. We had a dressing room that was on two levels complete with a pop-a-shot basketball game in it. They catered a meal for us, they paid attention to us and they welcomed us like no one else. The positive energy was flowing and we caught the wave and rode it. Once the sound check was completed we convened in the dressing room, got our last minutes of relaxation in before we transformed ourselves into our alter-egos...our heroes, KISS.
At 8:00 PM we took to the stage once again opening with "Detroit Rock City". For whatever reason there were a few miscues musically during this song. Even the transition between this one and "Shout It Out Loud" didn't go quite as smoothly as we had hoped. But once those few instances were out of the way we grabbed the crowd by the throat and never let go. Jim was unable to blow fire for this show due to the wooden interior of the venue. The crowd was just around 600 people and that may not seem like a lot but the management was more than thrilled for our first time in. This crowd was energized and responsive. They were shouting out songs that they wanted to hear, they were pumping their fists into the air, they were staring at us with the usual amazement/curiosity as we rolled over them with each and every song. I may have mentioned in the past that when we get to play for fans that we've never played for it's a challenge for us. We had something to prove and I'm proud to say that we won them over very convincingly. We showered the fans down front with more confetti than they could handle and left a few fans wanting an encore. In the end we came, we saw and we rocked Penn's Peak enough to shake it to its core.
Afterwards we spent the better part of an hour meeting with fans. So many of them were brimming with anticipation to tell us exactly what they thought. Even today we've received emails from fans that were there sharing their thoughts with us about their experience. I have no doubt that we will return to Penn's Peak. I can't say exactly when but when we do we will know that the experience is going to be one not to miss.
Blog Entry, 07.15.17 •
Mentor Rocks Concert Series - Mentor, Ohio|
After a long day of traveling back to Cleveland on Sunday we rested for just one day. On Tuesday we once again found ourselves in somewhat familiar territory in Mentor, Ohio. Two years ago we performed for this event in what seemed like a glorified picnic shelter. This time we set up on a $2 million stage complete with an incredible backstage area and green room, video screens, sound system and a much larger seating area for the fans. The city of Mentor really has an amazing facility now to be proud of and we were proud to be invited.
The stage is so massive that even with all of our props we couldn't maximize the space. The temperatures were soaring with this being our third show in five days and we knew we were hitting our stride. Sure enough by 7:00 PM (much earlier than we usually begin a show) an estimated crowd of 3000 fans had arrived. Some familiar faces and some painted faces. There were MR.SPEED tee shirts right along side of KISS tee shirts. For this show we used our alternate intro of Bon Jovi's "Get Ready" to jack us up and at 7:00 PM we let loose once again. Oh the sweat and the hot, sticky air made for a perfect night as we rolled through the songs. Jim used his wind direction intuition to steer the fireballs away from his face during "Firehouse". Joe's guitar was a bit too young to smoke for this show but the echoes of his low E string bends are still circling the stage. Quinton's cymbal stands rattled and shook as he combined bits of Peter's ALIVE and ALIVE II solos into one. For this show we even added "Wouldn't You Like To Know Me" and "All American Man" to the set, having omitted them the previous two shows.
The end of the show wasn't as climactic as I would've hoped for. Our confetti canons were spaced too far apart and most of it blew back on to the stage with the wind. In the end we were honored to be the first local band to christen this beautiful new venue and to set the bar for those that will follow. These are the kinds of places that MR.SPEED is deserved of...Mentor does rock and we're living proof of it.
Blog Entry, 07.14.17 •
Oglesby Summer FunFest - Oglesby, IL|
With traces of make-up still in our pores we climbed into our vehicles and hit the highway towards southwest Illinois. Saturday nights show was once again in a town that we've never been before. That also meant another crowd of curious on-lookers and newbies for us to initiate. We arrived to a community festival with long-standing traditions but we were intent on leaving our mark...one way or another.
It was early afternoon as we transformed the much smaller stage than the previous night into our lair for the evening. We wouldn't be able to use our cat scrims for this show and we stacked our dummy amplifiers creating a wall in front of Quinton. An adjacent second stage was busy with a local band trying to capture some sort of vibe of classic rock favorites while we finished our set up and ultimately our sound check. I asked those that were there for our sound check if they had any cob webs left that we were about to clear them out. We ran thru "Wouldn't You Like To Know Me" and "Strutter" to get things as close to satisfactory as possible. Within a few hours twilight had fallen and we strode towards the stage ready to conquer another town. A
crowd of close to 1000 filled the grassy area in front of the stage, many with KISS t-shirts from recent tours. Before long the sweat was pouring off of us and quite a few fans had pressed themselves against the stage. Jim grabbed center stage and rolled multiple balls of fire across the carnival style roof top, Joe staggered and nearly tripped during his solo as the sulphuric cloud guarded him. Quinton not only brought the crowd to a roar with his solo but executed a solid version of "Beth" with the crowd joining along.
The dimly lit stage held our silhouettes close for 2 hours as we rocked through our set of KISS tracks like a Panzer rolling down Main Street. The confetti canons showered the crowd with shreds of thinly sliced tissue, many pieces sticking to the arms and faces of the fans that were drenched in humid sweat right along with us. That's two shows in two days. Each one unique in its own way. For us we came, we rocked and we showed Oglesby just how KISS music is supposed to be played.
Blog Entry, 07.13.17 •
Greenville Lions Catfish Races - Greenville, WI|
So here we go...the first of 3 shows in 5 days takes us into Wisconsin. This is a state that we have never been to and fans that we've never played for. After almost a 9-hour trip we arrived at the site for the show. Placed high on a hill just outside of Appleton, WI our stage was waiting as the sun poured down like rain. Very soon there would be a shift in power as the sun gave way to high winds and over a two hour rain storm. We had never seen anything quite like a few of the clouds that appeared but when it was all said and done the show did go on.
Due to the inclement weather our start time was moved back from 8:15 PM to 8:45 PM and for some unknown reason we didn't make it on stage until 9:05. What we love about playing in markets where we've never been is seeing the faces of the fans that are staring back at us. At first there's apphrension which always gives way to relaxation and then to elation. Our set list was once again full of the standard tracks (depending on who you ask) with a small dose of rare gems to keep it interesting. As a result of the previous rainstorm the bugs were out in full force and a few made a meal out of my left arm.
The highlights of the show once again included Jim blowing multiple balls of fire during "Firehouse". Joe staggered from one side of the stage to the other as smoke enveloped him in a cape of white. Quinton crushed his kit with all the thunder and precision of a caged lion and I kept everyone in line with as much banter as I could handle. As "Rock And Roll All Nite" concluded and our confetti canons were exhaling their last breaths an enormous fireworks display rocketed skyward behind the stage. Hundreds of shells lit up the nighttime sky as we ended the song and let the bombastic symphony take control.
What a trip, what a night...what a way to start our summer of shows. We know now that Wisconsin has what it takes to rock 'n roll and we hope that someday soon we'll have another chance to turn on the night.
Blog Entry, 03.27.17 •
House Of Blues/Cleveland|
What a long, strange trip it's been. Just about five and a half months from our last show we finally took the stage again. This time with a new stage set, a new drummer and a new attitude. With very short notice we excitedly unloaded our Rock Out Loud show into the House of Blues here in Cleveland for the start of our tour. Every time we play a room like this we're reminded that this is one of the reasons when we feel like we've arrived. The staff at the venue is first class and every attempt is made to ensure that we're taken care of.
So setting up our new lighted KISS logo, our new "Cat" scrims, our new dummy logo cabinets and Quinton's massive chrome drum kit complete with a gong took a bit of time. Once everything was in place however, we realized that all of our hard work in creating something new and fresh while exorcising the demons from our past was well worth it. We couldn't help but stand back and look upon it with nothing but pride.
On this night we were working with Sabbatozz, a local Black Sabbath/Ozzy Osbourne tribute. Both bands were set up and ready to go by 6:30 PM and shortly thereafter the crowd began to arrive. I always like to take a walk outside and meet with our fans prior to this show. On this night the weather wasn't quite as warm as predicted so I think the fans enjoyed taking photos with me and some even grabbed some extra free tickets for the show to pass along to their friends. I like to think that our fans mean so much to us that taking a bit of time to go out and meet them is the easiest thing I'll do that day.
The opener hit the stage at 8:00 PM and ran through a killer set of Sabbath/Ozzy tracks to make the most die-hard fans a madman. At 9:30 PM it was our turn. The crowd erupted as we broke into "Detroit Rock City". Truth be told this was our first show together and with only one full practice to boot. I'll admit that everything didn't go perfectly but all things considered we couldn't have been more satisfied. There are just a few openings and endings of songs that need fine tuned and that will come with practice and getting to know one another a bit more. We added 2 new songs to our set that we were super excited about performing. Those were "Flaming Youth" and "Wouldn't You Like To Know Me" from Paul Stanley's 1978 solo album. Our thought process is this...if it's not fun for us it won't be fun for the fans and we're fans too. So gone are a few better known songs which gladly sacrificed themselves in order for us to rock out with tracks that make it fun for us as well.
In the end our first show in almost 6 months saw our new drummer kill it with a monster drum solo. Jim brought back the gore and fright with a blood solo second to none. Joe did his best to stumble and smoke his way from one side of the stage to the other. Our confetti storm showered the crowd during "Rock And Roll All Nite" and we left everyone there satisfied and wanting just a little bit more. We'll take this experience and improve upon it so that the next time we hit the stage you can bet that we'll leave nothing in the tank. What a night, what a crowd, what a treat to be in this band.
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